Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tampopo, Ramen Santouka

Recently I have been visiting places that sell the same things, such as Ramen - this is down to two main reasons:
(a) I have been going to alot of places, so to put them under different blog headings would be too messy and also the whole blog will just have too many entries!
(b) Blogging the two stalls together will give one a better idea of the differences in taste, etc, and comparison which makes for more informed choices.

Well, no prizes for guessing that this blog post is about Ramen. Ramen is really Japanese mee-kia (though more springy) in a broth, which varies from place to place - in Kyushu it's the famous tonkatsu ramen which is pork bones crushed and boiled for days to get this milky white broth which is so intense and flavourful; in Sapporo there is the miso ramen, etc. So good stock is always a must.

Thus there are two "Ramen" champs of Singapore - there are others of course such as Miharu at Gallery Hotel, etc -- but these two are the most highly rated for giving the ultimate Ramen experience, if you know what i mean.

So on a wintery Sunday night Jeremy and I trouped down to Central to have a taste of Ramen Santouka, the famous Hokkaido chain of Ramen restaurants who had won many awards before. It is an unpretentious place, just a row of tables/chairs with a wonderful view overlooking the river looking onto Clarke Quay, with the kitchen at one end and the entrance at the other.

The specialty, I heard, was the Toroniku Tonkotsu Ramen, which is literally Pork Cheek with Tonkotsu (Pork Bones) Ramen. The Pork Cheek came separately in a plate, these lovely deliciously delicate things, while the ramen came in a bowl with the Tonkotsu broth, complete with all the condiments. One could either eat the Pork Cheek on its own, or dip it into the soup and eat with the Ramen. Either way you ate it though, the Pork Cheek was extremely flavourful and porky, with fat that really just melts in your mouth and bursting with intense pork flavour. My friend describes it as "melt in your ******* orifice good". The flavour of the Toroniku was not "smelly" in the sense of your average Pork from the market, but had a delicate husky flavour to it that was really very intense once you bit into it - it's something you have to taste for yourself - to savour pork heaven, pork heaven. The Tokontsu broth was really good too - i had the Shio, which was extremely flavourful, very rich and thick and full of porky goodness - there's this unami rush that makes the soup so addictive, mm. Wow. Just dip the pork cheek into the ramen and you'll have a good meal.
Awesome: (9.5/10)

Today though for the famous FOS lunch we went to this place at Liang Court called Tampopo which is famous for its Black Pig Pork Cutlet Tonkatsu, aka fried pork cutlet, as well as their ramen. Apparently their Black Pig Shabu Ramen was noted in Lifestyle for being one of the top 10 Ramens in Singapore. So I just had to order it. Die die must try? Let me try.

It came speckled with lots of chilli flakes with some cabbage and thin slices (shabu) of black pig in the broth. The broth was really quite spectacular, very rich, thick, robust and spectacularly flavourful, white and milky and thick which can only be a result of long hours of boiling those pork bones. The noodles were a bit firmer as compared to Santouka's which was much curlier , more like instant noodles in that sense. The pork did have alot of flavour even though it was cut so thin. However, comparing this to the Toroniku Tonkotsu Ramen, the pork cheeks wins hands down - not only was there alot more of it, but the taste and the sublime melt-in-your-mouth texture wins hands down - it was more intense and more porky - but then you're comparing apples and oranges. The black pig shabu ramen was still pretty good on its own. (8.5/10)

The salmon sashimi was fresh - good. (7/10)

We ended off with dessert. I had the Scoopz cake, which was simply sponge cake with cream and fruit. The sponge was really just sponge, very light, while the nice part was that even the cream was light so it didn't feel heavy or jelak. It would have been nice to have a bit more flavour in the sponge and cream coz it felt that I was just eating creamy milk, but yes it was a nice light meal indeed. Went very well with the peach embedded in the cake. (7.5/10)

More photos soon because my phone is a bit wonky today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fish Soup! + More Amoy Street

Fish Soup is really healthy living.
There are two famous stalls in Amoy Street - Piao Ji Fish Porridge and Han Kee. So I have tried both and both are really good, in their own way.
Piao Ji features soup that is quite heavily flavoured, with garlic bits, fried pork lard (if i'm not wrong) and with garlic etc. with mackerel slices that were very fresh in the soup. The nice part of the meal was the taucheo in the chilli. Added a nice taste.

Han Kee features soup that is very light, with just fried garlic bits inside for flavour; It's just a very cheng fish soup that isn't robust at all, very light and teochew-style. But the star is the fish; the mackarel is very nicely sliced, very thick slices, and all very fresh with alot of flavour and very clean-smelling/tasting fresh fish. Nice. (8/10)

A tale of two Char Kway Teows

I have had the pleasure of two really good Char Kway Teows. One was very very good, almost brilliant; the other was just sublime. And they are none other than 18 Zion Fried Kway Teow (located at Zion Road) and Hill Street CKT (Bedok South), and the 18 Zion CKT is apparently the disciple of Hill Street CKT.
I went down to Zion Road the other day and the plate of CKT was really colourful-looking and it looked really good. The CKT was garnished with chives, lap cheong, etc and it was fried really really well, very robust and savoury and filled with the wok hei flavour of a good CKT - literally it was just full of the 'heat' of a good wok, while the kway teow was smooth, the sauce of the right balance, and the ingredients generous; the lap cheong added a nice touch....This is really the way CKT should be man. (8.5/10)

But Hill Street CKT was simply something else altogether. Not that Zion Road was anything bad - it weas really very good - but Hill Street CKT was really something else altogether, altogether sublime. There was enough wok hei, and the mix of lap cheong, chives, beansprouts, cockles, noodles, etc, with the black sauce and sweet sauce, and the beansprouts and chives gave it added crunch whicn contrasted with the noodles. Simply sublime. Yo u should go there and try. Very robust as well and savoury and also full of wok hei. (9/10).
Hill Street CKT
Bedok South Road Block 16

Fried Hokkien Mee Challenge

Fried Hokkien Mee (HKM) is one of the most popular of all local dishes. People who have gone overseas, and came back, inevitably crave HKM. It's just the combination of savoury prawn stock, noodles, sambal chilli, and prawns etc fried with nice savoury wok hei that gives HKM its character. So here are the few that I have sampled, with the winner!

1. Ah Hock Fried Prawn Mee
Thin beehoon was used, and it's the dry type. The uncle has been a legend who had fried HKM for ages already and has just come back from retirement. The HKM here is quite savoury but lacks the oomph factor. (7/10)
Chomp Chomp Food Centre, open till late.

2. Che Jian Fried Hokkien Mee
I've tried this two times; the first time it was really good; it was really wet, fried with thin bee hoon and noodles, and the savoury seafood prawn stock was robustly fried into the noodles so that there weas a nice prawny seafood taste. The second time it was a bit bland. Still good. better than ah hock. (7.5/10)
Chomp Chomp Food Centre, open till late.

3. Hainan HKM
This was really quite good; located at the bottom floor of Golden Mile, this is the dry type, fried till very "pang" and mixed with nice savoury hot sambal and chilli padi. Was a tad oily but very fragrant, there is great wok hei flavour and each noodles was well coated with stock. Nice.

4. Nam Sing Fried Hokkien Mee
The first time I tried it, it was rather bland and tasted really like vegeterian noodles, but the good thing was that it didn't taste heavy at all or leave a heavy flavour after that because they actually use vegetable oil. The second time round though, it was really really marvellously excellent. The noodles/bee hoon was fried in a very light prawn stock which tasted very heavenly, tasty, and savoury and it wasn't heavy at all. Full of wok hei flavour and so slurpable and so tasty. Must try man. (9/10)

5. Wisma Atria Fried HKM, Thye Hong
This is the wet kind. The stock is very flavourful and is infused into the noodles and was a pleasure to slurp up. However, it is inconsistent. (7/10)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

London - Wild Honey + Goldmine

Wild Honey is Arbutus's sister restaurant and it serves also a set lunch for a reasonably cheap 17 pounds for a michelin star restaurant.
So I went there with Colin from the famed "Only slightly pretentious food"to Wild Honey located in Conduit Street in Mayfair. The food was really quite outstanding, not bad, especially for that price.

We started off with a delightful Carrot Veloute, which featured olives, nuts, some salads, etc, covered in a cold carrot veolute which was really refreshing - it had a natural sweetness and really cleansed the palate and was very appetising indeed, especialyl with al the nuts and olives hidden beneath it. (8/10)

My haddock didn't go too wel lthough, it was a bit
fishy, maybe that's the way haddock is; however the risotto as always was well done. i hsouuld have ordered something else instead. colin's rabbit looked good. (7/10)

And we finished with Creme Anglaise with Floating Island again. Haha. same dessert as Arbutus. And amazingly, it tasted the same. woo. i wonder why. (7.5/10)


Here's the last meal in London with my mates at Goldmine in Bayswater, where the chef of Four Seasons had relocated too.

The Duck was less fatty than Goldmine's but no less delicious. Also very tasty and covered in the same slightly-sweet partly-caramelised soy-based sauce, very rich. (8/10)

Paired with some claypot Tofu - which was good if passe. (7/10)

ANd some Fried Rice - was very good, had a bit of that wok-hei and comparable to some in Singapore. (7/10)

All in all a great time in london, thank God and thank all my friends who had to put up with my nonses and bring me around. London is a great city and i'd definitely love to go back. Heh.

London - the Last London Post

Here's the final London Post on London Food!

The food at Paul's is really quite amazing. A homely, buttery, French patisserie, Paul serves delightful French pastries, great coffee, and even some Hot Meals all over London. While admittedly not cheap, the quality of the food really shines.

Had the Chocolate Tart, which was really the most amazing dessert I have had in London. Simple, but the chocolate was rich, divine, and had a nice balance of sweet and bitter and it was dense and rich enough, made with good quality cocoa. And the amazing ganache rested on a crust that had the fragrance of almonds and good butter was used; the crust was a delight to eat.

The Viennese coffee was good; aromatic, and with alot of cream on the top; really quite good. (7.5/10)

BTw i went to Fernandez and Weills a few days later which served the most aromatic coffee ever. It was really robust, strong, rich and everything a good cuppa needs. NO picutres though, i forgot.

And this was precluded by a lovely Four Cheeses Quiche which was also very well-done, made with authentic French ingredients. (7.5/10)

Anyone ever think of bringing Paul into Singapore? It will be such a hit. Who cares about Delifrance? Let's have the real French stuff!


So we were at SW's house for the next Saturday's cook-in, and this time we really outdid ourselves. LJ bought a few big steaks (i heard the butchers were saying "beautiful", "beautiful" when cutting those steaks) and we simply just marinated them with salt and pepper and pan-fried them over high heat for the required time, namely 2 and a half minutes on each side; but the steaks were cut so thick that the outsides were nicely charred from all the panfrying and the insides were still delicately pink and succulent, still brimming with the juices of a nice beefy steak. And the taste was just sublime, beefy, musky, heavenly, and just oommmpphhherly good; biting your teeth into it oozes juices that just.....okay you get the idea; even two months after that trip i can still remember the taste. wow.
I actually made a shalot confit (with onions) to go with the steak - simply just caramelise onions in a pan and add that as a garnish - and actaully to be truthful the steak didn't need it at all, it was that good by itself, but the shallot confit did add a nice different touch , a sweet touch, to cut some of the richness.

And this was paired with some lovely roasted chicken (it was a Poisson, free-ranged chicken) simply stuffed with rosemary and rubbed with salt and pepper and roasted and it was really very good, very flavourful - all to show that good ingredients go a long way.

I cooked Sauteed Mushrooms - with lots of Butter, and chopped garlic, that went down very nicely and well - musky earthly mushrooms with aromatic pungent garlic make a good combination.

I even cooked a Cream of Brocolli and Mushroom soup from the leftoveres of the brocolli and mushrooms, slowly boiling it for hours; and it turned out realyl nicely. very well. yummy. too bad everyone was full after those heavy meats.

it was a great dinner .
thankt he hosts.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Prawn Noodle Challenge

I still have alot of London Food journeys to upload, a huge backlog; but here maybe it's appropriate to shift the scene to the local food hawker scene. Namely, prawn noodles. Prawn Noodles, being a Hokkien dish, is, in its most basic form, prawns served with noodles in prawn stock, usually with pork, or some pork ribs, added to it. The secret lies in getting a great soup from the prawn stock and the exceptional Prawn Noodles will have great soup, tasty unami soup filled with prawns and all that lovely stock. if not, it would not be worthy to be drunk. The noodles are usually secondary. Great prawns are also a bonus - they should be sweet, not the farmed tiger prawns kind.

So here are the challengers:

1. River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles
This place was very crowded, but it was really quite good. It wasn't the holy grail i was expecting since everyone gave this place 6 chopsticks and so i thought it must be really super zai but it was only just "very good", not really "wow-inducing" yet. It is the dark Hokkien traditional kind, with the robust taste of pork ribs and prawns simmering in a dark robust prawn stock. I should go back to try it out though. [7.5/10]

2. Adam Road Noo Cheng Prawn Noodles [Adam Road Branch]
Noo Cheng is super inconsistent; some days the soup will be super shiok and some days it will be very bland, barely discernable that i'm drinking prawn noodles soup. Thus it all depends on the day: if you go when it's very crowded, the soup is likely to be better; because they will cook e prawns in the soup so you get better soup, and if they cook more prawns, the soup gets better. and later in the day it tends to be better as well, since there have been all the prawns cooked the day before for the soup.
When the soup is good, it is a [9/10] - it is fully robust, with lots of prawn flavour, and a unami rush.
When the soup is bad, it is only about [6.5/10], yuou probably only taste the MSG.
Oh well.
The dry version is better because the chilli they add to it is really very zingy and flavourful.

3. Adam Road (Noo Cheng) Prawn Noodles - Zion Road Branch [Zion Road, not adam]; This is even better than the Adam Road branch. The soup is very flavourful and will "definitely give you that unami rush" - in the words of ieat; but it is true....the soup was very robust and each mouthful full of prawn flavour and stock (like what you get after you eat steamboat and the soup is left) and gives you the unami rush. Very good. [8.5/10]

4. Wah Kee Cambridge Big Prawn Noodles - Cambridge Road Pek Kio Market.
This is a controversial one. Some people love it, some people don't. My eating partner who swears by adam road doesn't like wah kee at all. But I do. The soup is different; here the soup has that somewhat bitter-sweet bisque taste that is probably from frying the prawn heads and thus the prawn extracts of the head come to the forefront in the taste palette and gives that bisque taste that the other places dont' have. The soup is robust, flavourful, tasty, with the bisque aroma to the forefront, but it also provides depth of flavour and is not too salty like the other places are. Different. The noodles are tossed in a nice savoury chilli sauce which goes with the noodles very well. Very good. [8.5/10]

5. Joo Chiat Prawn Noodles - Joo Chiat Road
Joo Chiat Prawn Noodles is very value for money; the soup is quite robust in itself though probably not as flavbourful as some of the other places; alot of the aroma comes from the onions and shallots that is in it. but it comes with alot of prawns; for 4 bucks there are so many prawns that it just puts noo cheng to shame. however it is too far away for me to go all the way there. a worthy contender if you're in the east. [7/10]